Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Further Challenges to Wal-Mart Drug Plan Expected from Okla. State Officials

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

No Further Challenges to Wal-Mart Drug Plan Expected from Okla. State Officials

Article excerpt

What seemed in December to be a heated battle between the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy, Wal-Mart and state Rep. Mike Reynolds has cooled. However, the element that fueled the debate - an ongoing animosity between the state officials involved - continues to smolder.

Wal-Mart is free to continue offering its $4 prescription drugs plan in Oklahoma, as is any other retailer who wants to offer such a program, said Bryan Potter, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Pharmacy.

In November, retail giant Wal-Mart announced that Oklahoma had been added to the list of states wherein the company would offer about 300 generic drugs to customers at a cost of just $4 per prescription. As of January, the program is available at Wal-Mart, Neighborhood Market and Sam's Club pharmacies nationwide.

Potter said the board received calls from pharmacists throughout the state questioning the legality of Wal-Mart's offer. Oklahoma is one of only a dozen states that require at least a 6-percent markup on items offered for retail sale. Some pharmacists had discovered that Wal-Mart was offering for $4 some of the same medicines local pharmacies could not obtain for a cost of less than $18 or $20. Just four medicines were brought into question.

"I know the people at Wal-Mart, I talk to them," said Potter. "I felt maybe they'd made a mistake on those four drugs." At any rate, the Pharmacy Board is required to act on all complaints it receives, he said. And there was a larger issue to explore as well: drug companies are required to offer all retailers the same pricing structure. If Wal-Mart was able to buy drugs more cheaply than even the pharmacy chains that operate in Oklahoma, the matter bore some looking into.

Potter said the reaction to the board's inquiry "got way out of hand." Reynolds issued two press releases criticizing the board for trying to block Wal-Mart's prescription drug program.

"This is nothing but a protectionist scheme to protect Wal- Mart's competitors," said Reynolds, adding that the board was "playing games with the lives of Oklahoma's elderly."

The Pharmacy Board's members all represent small pharmacies that charge more than Wal-Mart charges for medicines, said Reynolds, threatening to revive legislation he'd filed last year to overhaul the board by changing its membership. …

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